With all the extra time we have had on our hands while COVID has been in session, it’s amazing what one can find in those decrepit old cardboard boxes in the basement.

Thomas Michael Collins in his dress Navy whites and his youngest grandchild, Nolan, in his grandpa’s 75-year-old sailor suit, last March 21. Courtesy Thomas Michael Collins

A while back, I discovered my old sailor suit from my childhood days on 22nd Street in Oakland, California. Now that goes back a long time, like 75 years long.

On the yellowed cloth there was a note, attached with a small brass safety pin and written by my Aunt Annie. It said: “Tom, I found your sailor suit and your blue pants in the bureau drawer. Mom saved them. Thought you would like to have them. The sailor suit is yellow from age. There was a sailor hat and whistle. Couldn’t find them.”

Aunt Ann wrote that note and mailed the clothes to me sometime after April 1977, when she was cleaning out my mother’s home after Katherine died of pancreatic cancer. And Ann wrote that note sometime before March 1980. That’s when she died of pancreatic cancer.

And if you ever wondered how our daughter Katie got her legal name of Katherine Ann, well, now you know.

I looked at the uniform: good quality, no rips or tears. No stains. Pretty yellow, though. Looks like it would fit a 3-year-old. Hmmm.


My youngest grandchild, Nolan, is almost 3 years old.

And I also knew that in the back of some closet I still had my dress Navy whites from the summer of 1969, when I wore them on the parade grounds at Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia, for a white-glove inspection during my internship year. I also wore those dress whites one more time: for the Internship graduation ceremony at 11 a.m. June 30, 1970. The following day, July 1, I would be heading west to my next assignment: the Naval Hospital Ship USS Sanctuary (AH-17), on-station in the harbor at Da Nang, South Vietnam. Doubt I would need those whites out there.

Wouldn’t it be neat to have a picture or two of us in our dress whites?

I found a sailor hat on Amazon. Passed on buying a military-grade whistle. Nolan’s father, Michael, appreciated that. As far as the yellow goes, think Oxi-Clean. Two days’ worth of Oxi-Clean soaks.

I got to Nolan’s house at 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 21, 2021.

He was a trouper! Let his mom dress him up without a whimper, even though Katie needed to use a lot of safety pins on the pants.

And then we went outside for the Kodak moments.

I wonder if there were two fine old Irish ladies, emigrants from County Galway, Ireland, looking down from somewhere up there and realizing what had become of that sailor suit, and that note, from so many years ago.

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